The sparkle that resides behind her eyes, the slight tilt at the edges of her smile, the strength that lives within her expression: these are the little things that Ruth Shively focuses on in her collection at Anthony Philip Fine Art, titled “It Girl,” that capture the essence of a 21st century woman. Her drawings, done mostly in charcoal and graphite, make use of the stark contrast that comes from the smallest details of her subjects.
Shively works with fashion photographers from around the world, collecting miscellaneous images from them and then using these photographs as a starting point for a deeper look into the spirits of modern women. They serve as her muses, and she is artistically driven to look past their obvious beauty, thus shattering superficiality with tension-creating graphite.
Although her work is primarily inspired by photos, her collection is not merely visual. The images speak bounds of the lives behind the faces they depict.
“I have a tendency to be drawn to faces,” Shively said. “I believe everyone has a story to tell behind their face.”
Considering the complexity of a contemporary woman, it is astonishing how blurred images colored predominantly in black and white can be so potent with such depth and emotion. Even though the lines in the images are soft, a sense of control and poise is depicted within each woman’s portrait. Shively’s ability to concentrate abstract concepts such as freedom, reflection and solitude with such simple composition is brilliant.
Shively explained that she does not have a title or concrete theme in mind when she begins her creative process. She takes a deeper look into their expressions and interprets the story behind each face in photo, innately creating a narrative within her art.
“What interests me with the women I choose for subjects are an inner strength and confidence they seem to possess; something that has been a struggle for me throughout my life.” In an attempt to capture admirable traits in these women, a fierce vitality shines through in each piece. Some of Shively’s women seem especially pensive, some hopeful and some wild, but one trait that ties them all together is their common sense of empowerment.
Ruth Shively’s “It Girl” is on display at Anthony Philip Fine Art at 56 Bogart St. in Brooklyn until Oct. 30.
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